Blanc de Noirs Brut 1er Cru NV
100% Pinot Noir, 80% being from Bisseuil, and 20% from Ambonnay. Ripe grapes means that this wine has quite a deep colour, almost oeuil-de-perdrix. Very fine and persistent bubble, full-flavoured with good acidity to give it 'peps'. Gorgeous. L&S (Jul 2018)
*Case price discount: Mix any 12 bottles (or 9l equivalent) of wine or 6 bottles of Champagne, Spirits, Sweet Wine or Fortified to get the 'case price' for each bottle.
The latest release of the NV Blanc de Noirs Premier Cru Brut is a rich, vinous Champagne, wafting from the glass with aromas of red apples, mint, honeycomb and dried white flowers. On the palate, the wine is medium to full-bodied, broad but incisive, with a fleshy attack, excellent concentration at the core and a long, penetrating and distinctly saline finish. The incipiently fine but youthfully frothy mousse will calm down with a few more months on cork. A third of this cuvée is fermented in used barrels, the balance in tank, and it sees six grams per liter dosage. Drinking range: 2018 - 2028 Rating: 93 William Kelley, The Wine Advocate(May 2019)
Xavier has twelve hectares in total, spread across eight villages. There are three Grands Crus, Le Mesnil sur Oger, Oger and Ambonnay, as well as five Premiers Crus, Mareuil sur Ay, Bisseuil (where he has a substantial 4.8 hectare plot), Billy Le Grand, Trépail and Vaudemange.
In 1996 Xavier met Julie Médeville (of the Bordeaux family which owns the Graves Château Respide Médeville and the Sauternes Château Gilette) at a tasting in Reims, and they married the following year. Xavier set out on a path to quality from the moment he was in charge in 2000, and is keen to emphasise what he does and does not do. "One press makes nine barrels - and it all goes into barrel, all divided according to the parcels it comes from.", he says, "no malo, no chaptalisation, no filtration, and the wines are left in barrel to stabilise. The red wines are properly red. The non-vintages are around 70-80% of the current year, with up to 30% reserves, normally just 20% of the previous year and 10% of the year before that."
Our first visit here was a joy, seeing the vineyard in Bisseuil, which is all in one block, on a sunny south-facing slope, which is perfect for achieving full ripeness. The tasting after so much anticipation is always an anxious moment on both sides, but the 'Tradition' does not let him down - indeed it sets the bar very high - simply delicious, and we both know that we are on the right track. The Rosé both surprises and delights because it is so different - almost all Chardonnay except the the red used for colour, it is a sprightly apéritif rosé. The micro-cuvées that make up the rest of the range are the stuff of future legend, rare, but worth seeking out.
"What made me want to make Champagne was wines from '29, '45, '55, '59, '61, '64 - I want to make wines like that", says Xavier. You need have no fear of cellaring these wines to see how they evolve, however delicious they are now.
Christmas is definitely the time of the year to explore our Grower Champagne. We have put together 3 pairs of our favourite wines, from the ethereal Larmandier-Bernier Longitude to the rich Barnaut Blanc de Noirs and the complex Gonet-Médeville Blanc de Noirs 1er Cru.
With every man and his wife on the lookout for Champagne 'deals', it is sad that so many people overlook the best 'deals' of all - high quality, grower-made Champagnes, packed with character, and at prices significantly below any of the best prices you might find for Grande Marque Champagnes.
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